Literary Fiction

If you like Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann

Let the Great World Spin

This readalike is in response to a patron's book-match request. If you would like personalized reading recommendations, fill out the book-match form and a librarian will email suggested titles to you. Available for adults, teens, and kids.  You can browse the book matches here.

"Let the Great World Spin" by Colum McCann: A rich vision of the pain, loveliness, mystery, and promise of New York City in the 1970s. A radical young Irish monk struggles with his own demons as he lives among the prostitutes in the middle of the burning Bronx. A group of mothers gathers in a Park Avenue apartment to mourn their sons who died in Vietnam, only to discover just how much divides them even in grief. A young artist finds herself at the scene of a hit-and-run that sends her own life careening sideways. A 38-year-old grandmother turns tricks alongside her teenage daughter, determined not only to take care of her family but to prove her own worth. Weaving together these and other seemingly disparate lives, McCann's allegory comes alive in the voices of the city's people, unexpectedly drawn together by hope, beauty, and the "artistic crime of the century"--a mysterious tightrope walker dancing between the Twin Towers.

If you enjoyed "Let the Great World Spin" by Colum McCann for the writing, the family story and the setting, you may enjoy these titles:

American Rust by Philipp Meyer
Left alone to care for his aging father after his mother commits suicide and his sister escapes to Yale, Isaac English longs for a life beyond his hometown. But when he finally sets out to leave for good, accompanied by his temperamental best friend, former high school football star Billy Poe, they are caught up in a terrible act of violence that changes their lives forever.-catalog summary


 

Falling Man by Don DeLillo
There is September 11 and then there are the days after, and finally the years. 'Falling Man' is a magnificent, essential novel about the event that defines turn-of-the-century America. It begins in the smoke and ash of the burning towers and tracks the aftermath of this global tremor in the intimate lives of a few people. First, there is Keith, walking out of the rubble into a life that he'd always imagined belonged to everyone but him. Then Lianne, his estranged wife, memory-haunted, trying to reconcile two versions of the same shadowy man. And their small son Justin, standing at the window, scanning the sky for more planes. These are lives choreographed by loss, grief and the enormous force of history. Brave and brilliant, 'Falling Man' traces the way the events of September 11 have reconfigured our emotional landscape, our memory and our perception of the world. It is cathartic, beautiful, heartbreaking. 

If You Like The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

This readalike is in response to a patron's book-match request. If you would like personalized reading recommendations, fill out the book-match form and a librarian will email suggested titles to you. Available for adults, teens, and kids.  You can browse the book matches here.

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver: "The Poisonwood Bible is a story told by the wife and four daughters of Nathan Price, a fierce evangelical Baptist who takes his family and mission to the Belgian Congo in 1959. They carry with them all they believe they will need from home, but soon find that all of it - from garden seeds to Scripture - is calamitously transformed on African soil. This tale of one family's tragic undoing and remarkable reconstruction, over the course of three decades in postcolonial Africa, is set against history's most dramatic political parables."

If you liked The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver, you may also like these selections:

I would recommend that you read all of Barbara Kingsolver’s novels. They all have interesting stories that illuminate relationships within families, relationships between individuals and the very important relationship we all have with our environment.

The antelope wife: a novel by Louise Erdrich
"Family stories repeat themselves in patterns and waves, generation to generation, across blood and time." Erdrich embroiders this theme in a sensuous novel that brings her back to the material she knows best, the emotionally dislocated lives of Native Americans who try to adhere to the tribal ways while yielding to the lure of the general culture. In a beautifully articulated tale of intertwined relationships among succeeding generations, she tells the story of the Roy and the Shawano families and their "colliding histories and destinies." (Publishers Weekly)
 

At Play in the Fields of the Lord by Peter Matthiessen
Set in the South American jungle, this thriller follows the clash between two misplaced gringos--one who has come to convert the Indians to Christianity, and one who has been hired to kill them.

Cry, the beloved country by Alan Paton
Cry, the Beloved Country is a beautifully told and profoundly compassionate story of the Zulu pastor Stephen Kumalo and his son Absalom, set in the troubled and changing South Africa of the 1940s. The book is written with such keen empathy and understanding that to read it is to share fully in the gravity of the characters' situations. It both touches your heart deeply and inspires a renewed faith in the dignity of mankind. Cry, the Beloved Country is a classic tale, passionately African, timeless and universal, and beyond all, selfless. (catalog summary)

The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

Paris retains an eternal allure for the creative. And the gifted expatriates who flocked to the City of Lights in the 1920s often felt the hallowed pursuit of their individual muses justified unconventional personal behavior. The Paris Wife by Paula McLain chronicles the courtship and subsequent marriage of Hadley Richardson and Ernest Hemingway—a relationship strained and eventually damaged by their friends’ hedonistic lifestyles.

Hadley, who was seven years his senior, met her future husband in Chicago. Although quite the ladies’ man, Hemingway was immediately drawn to her wholesome beauty, even temperament, and courage. Hadley’s unconditional support bolstered Hemingway, a man already plagued by multiple demons, and gave him the companionship he needed to wholeheartedly pursue his writing.

If you like Ape House by Sara Gruen

Ape House by Sara Gruen

This readalike is in response to a patron's book-match request. If you would like personalized reading recommendations, fill out the book-match form and a librarian will email suggested titles to you. Available for adults, teens, and kids.  You can browse the book matches here.

Ape House by Sara Gruen: When a family of bonobo apes who know American Sign Language are kidnapped from a language laboratory, their mysterious appearance on a reality TV show propels scientist Isabel Duncan, together with reporter John Thigpen, on a personal mission to rescue them. An entertaining book that calls into question our assumptions about these animals who share 99.4% of our DNA.

If you like Sara Gruen's Ape House, you may also like these titles and authors.

A Dog's Purpose by W. Bruce Cameron
This is the remarkable story of one endearing dog's search for his purpose over the course of several lives. More than just another charming dog story, this touches on the universal quest for an answer to life's most basic question: Why are we here? Surprised to find himself reborn as a rambunctious golden haired puppy after a tragically short life as a stray mutt, Bailey's search for his new life's meaning leads him into the loving arms of 8 year old Ethan. During their countless adventures Bailey joyously discovers how to be a good dog. But this life as a beloved family pet is not the end of Bailey's journey. Reborn as a puppy yet again, Bailey wonders, will he ever find his purpose?

Heartwarming, insightful, and often laugh out loud funny, this book is not only the emotional and hilarious story of a dog's many lives, but also a dog's eye commentary on human relationships and the unbreakable bonds between man and man's best friend. This story teaches us that love never dies, that our true friends are always with us, and that every creature on earth is born with a purpose. (Catalog summary)

The Elephant Keeper by Christopher Nicholson
Deeply soulful and richly imaginative, this magical adventure tells the story of two baby elephants and the young man who accidentally finds himself their keeper. (Catalog summary)

 

 

This Must Be the Place by Kat Racculia

This Must Be the Place by Kat Racculia

Amy Henderson could not wait to leave Ruby Falls, New York, and start her life in This Must Be the Place, by Kate Racculia.  She wants to go to Los Angeles and make monsters—her hero is Ray Harryhausen, talented maker of special effects with stop-action animation and creator of the Kraken in the 1981 version of Clash of the Titans. But like many a movie monster, Amy Henderson leaves disaster in her wake.

Amy does get to make monsters, but she dies at 31 of a freak electrical accident on a movie set. She leaves her totally devastated husband Arthur, a pink shoebox full of memorabilia of her life and a postcard with a cryptic message addressed to her best friend Desdemona Jones in Ruby Falls. Amy writes that she left the best of herself there. Arthur makes a journey to find out the secrets in Amy’s life. What hadn’t she told him? What else didn’t he know about his wife?
 

The Widower's Tale by Julia Glass

The Widower's Tale by Julia Glass

The seventy-year-old widower and retired librarian, Percy Darling, in Julia Glass’ The Widower’s Tale, has been entrenched in his old house for 30 years after the tragic death of his wife. He’s definitely set in his eccentric ways. But in order to help his daughter Clover find a job, he has allowed the local preschool, Elves and Fairies, to renovate his barn to use as their new venue if they hire Clover. The changes begin with a small purchase: Percy has to give up his daily skinny dipping in the pond on his property and wear a garish pink pineapple print swimsuit for his daily swim.

The world opens up for Percy on his pilgrimage out of Matlock, a small town near Boston.  He falls in love with a younger woman with child and she becomes ill.  His perfect grandson, who is in premed at Harvard, inadvertently gets involved in eco-terrorism through his roommate Arturo. There's Ira, the gay preschool teacher whose partner helps Percy's daughter with her custody battle. And there's the illegal Guatemalan gardener.  Funny and sad, Percy’s dilemmas help him grow and form friendships and show his love for his family.
 

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

If you’re determined to avoid any books guaranteed to trigger tears, then forget The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein. I, however, am a sucker for an exceptional dog story and accustomed to the accompanying waterworks. From White Fang through Marley and Me to A Dog Year, the unconditional love, loyalty and goodness of (wo)man’s best friend keep me coming back for more.

Denny’s dog Enzo is wiser than most people. In fact, he’s convinced that in his next life he will return as a human. To that end, he has already started perfecting his skills so upon rebirth, he can (figuratively) hit the ground running.
 
Denny meets and marries Eve and they are subsequently blessed with the arrival of baby Zoe. Despite the family extension, Enzo remains cherished by all. But shortly after, Eve is stricken with an illness. Both she (and Enzo) realize something is terribly wrong, yet she refuses to see a doctor.

How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents, by Julia Alvarez

How the Garcial Girls Lost Their Accents

In a reverse chronological sequence of events, Julia Alvarez takes her readers through the immigration experience of the four Garcia sisters: Carla, Sandra, Yolanda and Sofia in How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents. Leaving behind a life of privilege surrounded by their large extended family, the four girls move with their Papi and Mami to New York City, and begin the long, never-ending process of assimilating into American culture. The story is as much a coming of age tale as it is a feminist, Latino perspective on American culture, beautifully conveyed with a sprinkling of Spanish vocabulary here and there.

The sisters are adults at the beginning of the book, and going back in time, the reader experiences their divorces, marriages, college years, teenage angst and confusion, and efforts to learn English while attending American public schools. Their father’s involvement in a plot against the dictator, the subsequent investigations by the authorities, and the escape with the help of friends and family are all experienced by the reader alongside Carla, Sandra, Yolanda and Sofia. Alvarez did a good job of keeping me hooked. The why’s and the how’s unfold further and further the closer the reader gets to the end of the book--which is actually the beginning of the story. 

Grendel, by John Gardner

Grendel, by John Gardner

Lurking in the shadows of the Dark Ages is the howling form of Grendel. He is the monster of midnight, the bone-gnasher, the ardent hunter of warriors who strews their bones and howls his fury to the world as he wreaks havoc on the safety of civilization. No hall fire burning brightly, no line of armed men can keep him back when he desires destruction. But as John Gardner tells of Grendel, this was not always so. For the bane of the Hrothgar’s hall has a soul much tormented by his desire for good and fellowship with the humans even as his demonic appearance frightens them into violent action. To them, he is a thing, and so he becomes what they believe him to be--an adversary whose fame has spanned the centuries.

The Good Daughters by Joyce Maynard

The Good Daughters by Joyce Maynard

Occasionally you’re lucky enough to find a book you just can’t put down. Its gripping plot grabs hold of you and, chapter by chapter, propels you along. Equally compelling is that rare title where the action isn’t paramount, but the key players are so real you find yourself reading into the wee hours. The Good Daughters, by Joyce Maynard, falls into the second category with its unforgettable characters. 

Two girls, Dana Dickerson and Ruth Plank, are born on the same day in the same hospital to neighbors. Despite their proximity, the families couldn’t be more different. The Dickersons are like seeds that can’t seem to take hold. Often ignoring her two children, Val is consumed with art projects, while husband George constantly leaves home to chase yet another “get rich” scheme. Edwin and Connie Plank, on the other hand, live a stable, God-fearing (and some might say boring) life providing for their five daughters on a farm passed down the family tree for generations.